Although we had hiked with Emma dozens of times in the hills of Pawtuckaway, she was not allowed in the campground, so, Judy had never camped there. I had spent many a summer weekend here in my younger days camping with my three sons as they grew and learned to love the outdoors. With Emma's passing last May it opened the window of opportunity to camp here again, though I would rather have our beloved girl back.
Despite being a Monday and Tuesday the park was crowded, but not full. Amazingly, it was quiet, despite the full "Blue" moon. The only noise we heard was from the private homes where some idiot thought it would be great fun to shoot quarter stick reports from a mortar towards the campground late the first night. There is really no room in my life for red-neck hillbillies. Unfortunately, New Hampshire is full of them...
We were able to paddle onto the lake straight from our waterfront campsite on Horse Island. Within 10 minutes we were not paddling, stopping instead to watch mama and papa Loon feed their young one. We had met before, earlier in the year, when their young were much smaller, and there were two. Unfortunately, they only have about a 25% survival rate. We have observed an Eagle watching them very closely, but it is more likely a motor boat got the other youngster. Fish-eating birds like loons must learn to swallow fish head first, or the fish can open its spiky dorsal fin and get lodged in the birds throat, killing it. This accounts for the mortality of many of them as well.
I felt incredibly fortunate to observe this family as they cared for and fed the youngster. They were quite tolerant of the kayaks, seemingly feeling no threat, but we kept a respectable distance so as not to harass the birds, shooting with a 300mm lens. With each paddle during our stay we ran across each other and I was able to shoot many pictures, the best appear here. Along with the loon sightings I had the privilege of shooting some very tame Great Blue Herons, perhaps too young to be as wary as most I have come across. When I first spotted one on the shore I thought it had broken a wing, as it stood with one wing hanging to the ground. I was quite relieved a minute or so later when something in the water caught his attention and he crept along the shore to hunt fish with his spear-like beak. Apparently the hanging wing was just a way to cool off on a hot, August day.
At night we were serenaded by the loons who were quite vocal under the full moon. I felt it was a triumphant return to the camping grounds of my youth, where I had the privilege of watching my sons grow and learn in the fresh air of Pawtuckaway. Many great memories were stirred that had long been stowed away, and I was thankful for the chance to relive them in this wonderful place. I have had many memorable experiences in all seasons on your hills, shores, and now on your waters. Thank you, Pawtuckaway, I will always hold you dear to my heart!